Shingijutsu Kaizen Seminar – Day 2

The day today ended about 10 pm. It is 11 pm now as I write this, which translates to 7 am Pacific Time. I will leave the remaining time zones as an exercise for my European readers. (Hello, Corrie!)

Once we hit the shop floor today we were in “understand the current situation” mode. It turned out to be more difficult than I expected due to a high level of variation, some real, but most self-inflicted, on the line. Yesterday I mentioned my great plan to put the less experienced people on the front line of the cycle time study. Well, I ended up doing that, along with everyone else, since the area we are working is fairly spread out and has 11 people working in it.

After getting our heads around things, we have these areas of focus tomorrow.

  1. Establish an even and visual pitch on the moving conveyor. We need to know when work cycles are supposed to start and end so we have some kind of baseline about where the cycle time issues are. This will help.
  2. Basic 5S and parts presentation in the first position. This guy is responsible for setting the takt for everyone else since he is the one who launches the unit down the conveyor after his stationary build. We might try to move most of his build to the conveyor too. I think it has been on the conveyor in the past because the unit moves through the first pitch without anyone touching it.
  3. Start recording line stops. When, why, how often. Basic understanding of where the problems are.
  4. Detailed work combination analysis of a semi-automated testing operation at mid-line. We know there are disruptions there, but those disruptions cause major distortions to the actual (vs. planned) work cycle, so we need to understand whether the operation even has the theoretical capability to meet takt.
  5. Work on a sub-assembly operation and at least try the concept of building unit-by-unit instead of batching to the weekly published schedule. Stuff is late to the line. It is probably not a capacity issue but rather that capacity being used making stuff other than what is needed right now. This will be a little complicated because they actually feed parts to more than one line position. Thus if they get truly synchronized with their customer, they will not build a unit set of parts because this is a mixed line, and different positions have different products at any given time. Instead they will have to shift their focus from “unit” to their individual main-line customers and build what they need next.

The real overall challenge is that this is a two-day event, and we spent the first day just getting our heads wrapped around all of this. So tomorrow will be busy. But people are learning, and that is the whole point. It is important not to lose sight of the reason we are here. If the host company gains, so much the better, but it is really about the participants learning something we can take back.

And yes, I have been deliberately vague so as not to compromise the host company. They have been at this a long time, and done some very impressive things. This particular area, however, needs work, which I suppose is why we are in it.

One Reply to “Shingijutsu Kaizen Seminar – Day 2”


    The majestic, snow-capped Mount Fuji summit provided the perfect backdrop to the today’s venue. We were spending two days in the workshops of the host company that manufactures appliances, a short commute along the Pacific Ocean from Shinsouka.

    The improvement journey at this plant started 20 years ago with the help of Shingijutsu. Lead time dropped from 35 days to 7 days and the rate of Heijunka went up from 27% to 66%. The end-to-end value stream was so well coordinated that it runs like clockwork and rarely skipping a beat. Everywhere you stop and look, you find evidence of years of thinking, innovation, and execution (aka moon-shining).

    Our team’s gemba was a air compressor final assembly line consisting of 18 steps. In a traditional company, I estimate that it would take a crew of 8 to handle the process. Here, the tasks are done by 3 operators producing 55 units per shift. Our sensei gave us a goal of 30% improvement to 72 units per shift. This was a work or methods type kaizen and not an equipment kaizen. Hence, better thinking was in, money for investment was out.

    The team lead divided us into three sub-teams each observing one of the operators. While planning for the time study, our quartet noticed excess variation in the work sequence of Operator number 3 from cycle to cycle. Once it was giving Operator number 2 a hand. Twice it was correcting a defect. Thrice it was waiting for a hook on the takeaway conveyor, and so on. As a result, we had difficulties timing the work sequence accurately and filled out the time observation sheet.

    The innovation or improvisation we came up with: focus on specific elements (or tasks) instead. It takes teamwork to make that happen. One guy announces the start and stop of a specific element, another operates the stopwatch and tell time, and a third record the time in the appropriate line (task) on the sheet.

    It worked and we were able to obtain 7 cycles, select the “typical” work sequence, and better understand the current state via facts and figures vs. opinion. Later, we used that data to compile a Yamazumi chart, a Standard Worksheet, and a Work Combination Sheet. The Machine Capacity sheet, usually a pre-requisite, was judged unnecessary because Operator 3 did not use an automatic machine. This is followed by brainstorming sessions to come up with multiple improvement ideas.

    Reflecting on team dynamics, it appears that an experienced kaizen facilitator may not be the best kaizen participant. Perhaps we are trained to observe and ask questions, and trued to not offer solutions and not do it for them. The work day ended at 10 pm.

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